US ready to end decades-long ban on British lamb imports

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Boris Johnson - Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images
Boris Johnson - Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

America is set to lift its longstanding ban on British lamb imports, it emerged on Wednesday – but confusion reigned about the UK's new approach to deepening trade with the US.

Boris Johnson has conceded that Joe Biden, the US president, is not striking trade deals, ending any hopes of a speedy UK-US agreement, but he insisted it was still a long-term ambition.

The Prime Minister said the focus now was on "incremental steps", in a sign that other routes to improving trade links are being pursued, rather than a standalone trade deal.

Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, is travelling to Mexico after her trip to the US. The trip predated reports that the UK is considering trying to join the US-Mexico-Canada trade deal.

Kenneth Smith Ramos, the chief technical negotiator for Mexico during the USMCA talks in 2017 and 2018, told Bloomberg News it was possible a country such as the UK could join.

The US had banned both British beef and lamb since 1989 due to mad cow disease. The lamb ban is now set to be lifted following the previous ending of the beef ban.

Speaking to reporters in Washington, Mr Johnson said: "I can tell you today that what we're going to get from the United States now is a lifting of the decades-old ban, totally unjustified, discriminating on British farmers and British lamb.

"We are going to be able to export British lamb to the US for the first time in decades. It will allow kebabs, the kofta, the lamb burgers of the people of the US [to] be supplied at last by Britain, and fantastic juicy cuts of welsh lamb and everything else."

‘A great deal is there to be done’

Despite Mr Johnson's comments, Downing Street said that although "good progress" had been made towards lifting the ban, details remained to be worked out.

For half a decade, the UK Government has been pursuing a free trade deal with America, held up as an expected win from Brexit after the EU referendum in 2016. But Mr Biden has a much more sceptical view of trade deals than Donald Trump, his predecessor in the White House, meaning talks have stalled and hopes of a deal are fading.

Asked about the prospect of a deal, Mr Johnson rejected claims it would never happen but also appeared to accept an agreement was not expected any time soon.

He added: "I think there is every prospect of a free trade deal with the US, but in the meantime what we are doing is taking practical steps to help exporters.

"What we are wanting to do is make solid incremental steps on trade. The Biden administration is not doing free trade deals around the world right now.

"But I have got absolutely every confidence that a great deal is there to be done and there are plenty of people in that building behind me that want to get it done."

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